Joseph Bonomi the Elder

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The Blickling pyramid

Joseph Bonomi the Elder (19 January 1739 – 9 March 1808) was an Italian architect and draughtsman notable for his activity in England.


Born as Giuseppe Bonomi in Rome, he made his early reputation there, then moved to London in 1767 where he was employed as a draughtsman from 1768 until 1781 in the practice of Robert and James Adam before setting up his own business. Excepting one year spent with his friend Angelica Kauffman in Italy in 1783/4, he remained for the rest of his life in London.[1]

In 1789, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and from that time constantly exhibited architectural drawings. Joshua Reynolds, president of the Academy, had wished Bonomi to become a full Academician, regarding him as a fitting occupant of the then vacant chair of perspective. But the majority of the Academicians were opposed to this suggestion, and Bonomi became an associate only, and that merely through the president's deciding vote. This precipitated Reynolds' retirement from the presidency.[2]

In 1804 he was appointed architect of St. Peter's at Rome. He died in London in 1808.[2]


Notable works include:


In 1775 he married Rosa Florini, Angelica Kauffman's cousin.[1] He was the father of Ignatius Bonomi (1787-1870), also an architect, and of Joseph Bonomi the Younger (1796-1878), who became an eminent sculptor, artist and Egyptologist.


Bonomi is briefly mentioned in Sense and Sensibility. In the novel, Robert Ferrars says to Elinor (perhaps untruthfully) that his friend Lord Courtland had shown him three house designs by Bonomi and asked him to choose between them, but that Robert had burned them and advised Courtland to build a cottage instead.


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg "Bonomi, Giuseppe". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 
  2. ^ a b  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bonomi, Giuseppi". Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.